Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Incident

My blog posts are usually filled with smiling vacation photos and/or lush landscapes. And I do have more of those to share, but we have yet to upload the photos.

For now, I need to retell an anecdote that I mentally refer to as simply 'the incident.' I feel the need to record it now, a month after it happened, so that it doesn't morph dramatically over the years. Truthfully, it's dramatic enough without my imagination filling in the gaps of memory.

One crisp Saturday morning, my mom and I went to pick up my dry cleaning from a shop I'd used occasionally.
We handed the lady our claim ticket, but there was still confusion about where my items were. Eventually, the owner, an Asian woman in her fifties or so, found my blouse and work trousers.

Immediately, my mom and I thought that the shirt looked off in color. When I brought it in, it was close to an eggshell white, but now it looked pale yellow. We tried to discuss this color issue with the woman, but she didn't offer any helpful solutions. When she wasn't wandering away to help other customers, she told us, 'you need to speak to the dry cleaner.' Hold on a moment, we thought she was the dry cleaner.

It seems that the actual dry cleaning is done by someone else, but the woman didn't indicate when that person would arrive or if they could re-clean it. We were pretty annoyed by then because the woman kept ignoring us to help other customers while our issue remained unresolved. My mom asked what we should do and I decided we should pay for the trousers and either bring the blouse to another dry cleaner or try to hand wash it at home. For all I knew, the blouse was ruined.

When the woman realised we weren't paying for the blouse, only the trousers, she quickly turned her attention back to us and flipped out. She grabbed the dry cleaning out of my hands and we started in with a heated tug of war. She was adamant: yanking and yelling about 'you not pay!' I was stunned, but it was nothing compared to what came next.

I finally won the tug of war and we were about to walk out of the shop when she grabbed my mom's purse! Looking back, I still can't believe that this happened. She put it behind her on a shelf where we couldn't easily get to it. 'Excuse me!' we said. 'Ma'am, give me back my purse!' We were completely shocked.

My mom went behind the counter and tried to take it back and the woman responded by fighting her for it and moving the purse again. After prying the woman's hands off my mom's poor arm, we finally had the purse. Realizing she was fighting a losing battle, the woman started shouting that she'd call the police. 'Call them!' we shouted back. We knew that she'd likely be at fault as she stole my mom's purse and then tried to assault her.

Practically dazed but intact, we left the shop while the woman cursed after us. She screamed the 'f' word and then said something like 'second hand' meaning to insult my blouse.

Now here's where it starts to get interesting. In the light of day, yeah, you guessed it: my blouse was fine. Not discolored or ruined. I don't know what happened, but we could have sworn that the blouse looked absolutely yellow in the shop. Was it the yellow walls, fluorescent lighting or the plastic covering that made it look so off? I guess we'll never know, but we started to feel a bit bad at that point.

My mom considered slipping $7 (the absurd amount of money in dispute here) under the door the next day, but I told her we couldn't. That lady had taken her purse and assaulted her! Thoroughly shaken by the incident, we tried to laugh it off the rest of the weekend.

Mom's big takeaway from the incident is that $7 isn't worth a physical fight with a middle aged dry cleaner (although in the end it felt more like a fight for the purse). My lesson learned? I sure as heck don't live in the land of the customer is always right. This customer will never look at that blouse the same way.

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